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17 Mar 2008 : Column 896Wcontinued
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 17 January 2008, Official Report, column 1431W, on HM Revenue and Customs, what criteria are used for categorising which form of postal service is used for the different types of mail HM Revenue and Customs dispatches. 
Jane Kennedy: The criteria for determining which form of service is used by HMRC for the dispatch of post are selected locally, based on the individual circumstances of each case taking into account general guidance on HMRC postal arrangements. These postal arrangements are currently under review as part of the Departmental Transformation Programme.
Since November 2007, HMRC has reminded staff of the appropriate data security procedures which must be followed at all times when handling data. These arrangements are being examined as part of the Poynter Review commissioned by the Chancellor (the interim findings of which were announced by the Chancellor on 17 December 2007, Official Report, columns 612-23).
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how the decision was reached to close the HM Revenue and Customs office in Chorley; who was consulted before the decision was taken; and if he will make a statement. 
Jane Kennedy: HM Revenue and Customs is reviewing all its accommodation to match it to future business needs and create significant efficiency savings. Initial proposals for restructuring its estate and business in any area are published for consultation with staff, unions and key external stakeholders, including hon. Members with a constituency interest and relevant local authorities. The results of the consultation exercise and of detailed feasibility work inform the final decisions.
In the original proposals for restructuring its business and estate in the Preston/Blackpool urban centre the Chorley office was one of those proposed for retention. However, detailed feasibility work showed that the staff in Chorley could be accommodated in other offices where they could be co-located with larger teams, so increasing operational effectiveness as well as realising estate savings.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many staff work at the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) office in Chorley; and whether all those staff will be transferred to other HMRC offices following closure of the Chorley office; 
(2) where the nearest HM Revenue and Customs office will be for people living in Chorley after the Chorley office closes. 
Jane Kennedy: 77 staff work at the HMRC office in Lingmell House, Chorley, which houses an Enquiry Centre offering face-to-face advice to HMRC customers. The Enquiry Centre will remain either in Lingmell House or in a nearby location, so that the effect on customer service will be minimal.
Business plans are for all staff, except those needed to staff the Enquiry Centre, to be transferred to other offices where they can be co-located with larger teams. Depending on the business stream in which staff work, they may be transferred to offices in Bootle, Manchester, Salford or Preston, but no one will be required to relocate beyond reasonable daily travel.
Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects the Regional Review Programme of HM Revenue and Customs offices in smaller towns and cities across the UK to be completed and its recommendations produced. 
Jane Kennedy [holding answer 14 March 2008]: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) told its staff on 14 March that it will publish proposals for reorganising its offices in smaller towns and cities in the South East, East Midlands, West Midlands and North East on 19 March, and expects to announce proposals for the remaining locations by the end of May.
Decisions on the future of these offices are expected to be published by the end of the year, following consultation and detailed feasibility work.
David Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what criteria a civil servant in HM Revenue and Customs must fulfil to be (a) considered for and (b) awarded a bonus on top of their regular salary. 
Jane Kennedy [holding answer 7 March 2008]: In respect of the pay framework for the senior civil service, I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) on 13 March 2008, Official Report, column 537W.
For other staff, individual performance is measured against objectives agreed for each performance year. Top performer payments are made to staff who have exceeded these objectives and sustained very high levels of performance and behaviour. In addition, a small number of Good Performers (i.e. those staff who have delivered the required levels of performance against their business and development objectives) receive a payment in addition to their basic pay award if they are on the maximum of their pay range.
HMRC also operates a recognition bonus scheme which provides an immediate reward, outside the terms of the appraisal system, for the visible demonstration of exceptional performance during the delivery of particularly demanding tasks, projects or situations.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 7 January 2008, Official Report, column 339W, on Revenue and Customs: postal services, what guidance is provided to HM Revenue and Customs staff in deciding whether an item of post is sent by recorded post; and if he will place a copy of this guidance in the Library. 
Jane Kennedy: Decisions about when to send items by recorded delivery are made locally based on the individual circumstances of each case and guidance of each business area.
The information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many firearms were intercepted at UK borders in each of the last five years. 
Jane Kennedy: The following table provides data on the number of firearms seized by HM Revenue and Customs for the financial years 2002 to 2007. The figures do not include stun guns (electric shock devices) or self-defence sprays (pepper sprays and CS gas canisters) or parts of firearms.
|Financial year||Number of firearms seized|
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average annual staff turnover has been in the Tax Credits Office since 2003. 
Jane Kennedy: The information is not available in the format requested.
The number of full time equivalent (FTE) staff deployed to tax credits work in Tax Credit Office (TCO) in each year was:
|Number of FTE (around)|
These estimates take account of changes to organisational boundaries within the former Inland Revenue and HMRC over that time.
There are currently just over 4,000 FTE working in TCO.
Geraldine Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the revenue lost to the Exchequer as a result of tax evasion in the latest period for which figures are available. 
Jane Kennedy: There are no robust estimates of the revenue lost specifically to tax evasion.
Geraldine Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many full-time equivalent members of staff in his Department work on tax evasion matters. 
Jane Kennedy: HRMC has approximately 35,000 full-time equivalent staff allocated to compliance activities which include, for example, policy development, inquiries and investigations. These staff often operate in multifunctional teams, tackling non-compliant behaviour ranging from simple errors through to complex fraud and organised attacks. As a result, HMRC is not able to separately quantify the number of staff working on evasion matters.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Valuation Office Agencys automated valuation model is calibrated. 
Jane Kennedy: Yes, not for a council tax revaluation but to maintain the investment that has been made in this technology and support the ongoing work of the Valuation Office Agency.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the Valuation Office Agency's technical definition of a consequential is in relation to valuations of domestic properties. 
Jane Kennedy: This is not a technical term. It has the same meaning as in the ordinary use of language.
Robert Neill: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar of 23 January 2008, Official Report, column 2099W, on the Valuation Office: digital technology, what the reasons were for the decision that it is not appropriate to place the guidance in the Library. 
Jane Kennedy: The purpose of the Valuation Office Agency's best practice guide in the use of digital photography is to ensure that the performance of the Agency's computer system is not affected. As the guide is technical in nature and designed solely for use within the Agency, it is not considered appropriate to place it in the Library.
Robert Neill: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the Answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge of 5 February 2008, Official Report, column 1057W, on HM Revenue and Customs: visits abroad, which overseas destinations were visited by Valuation Office Agency staff in the last 24 months; how many visits were made to each destination; what the purpose was of each visit; and what the cost was to the public purse of such visits. 
Jane Kennedy: In the last 24 months, VOA staff have visited America, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, Spain, France, China, Belgium, Finland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Lithuania, Ireland and Hong Kong on official business.
More detailed information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to extend the Valuation Office Agencys automated valuation model for council tax valuations and revaluations to Wales. 
Jane Kennedy: The Valuation Office Agency is currently developing automated valuation model capabilities to support work in connection with the maintenance of the current (2005) council tax lists in Wales. This will increase both the overall efficiency of the Agencys work, and will deliver further improvements in customer service for taxpayers in Wales.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what guidance he has issued on whether the 5 per cent. VAT rate for the installation of energy-saving materials
in homes can be applied to the (a) installation costs and (b) cost of a heat pump. 
Jane Kennedy: Guidance on the scope of the reduced rate of VAT for the installation of energy-saving materials, including its application to heat pumps, can be found in HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Notice 708/6, Energy-saving materials which is available at:
Danny Alexander: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many tax credit awards were adjusted on 1 September 2007 on the assumption a 16 year old in the household had left full-time education; how many were permanently reduced; and how many were returned to previous levels because the child had remained in full-time education. 
Jane Kennedy: The information requested is available only at disproportionate cost.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what reports on the tax credit system have been prepared by the Office of Government Commerce; (a) when and (b) why each was commissioned; and on what dates he received them. 
Jane Kennedy: Six OGC Gateway‚"Ę Reports have been completed on the New Tax Credits Programme:
One Gate 3 (Investment Decision) 22 January 2002 to 25 January 2002;
Four Gate 4s (Readiness for Service) from 3 December to 5 December 2002, 7 October 2003 to 10 October 2003, 15 March 2004 to 18 March 2004, 21 March 2005 to 24 March 2005 respectively; and
One Gate 5 (Benefits Realisation) from 25 September 2006 to 28 September 2006.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much was spent on training staff in the Tax Credit Office whose main duties were (a) operating telephone helplines, (b) processing applications and awards and (c) other duties in each financial year since 2003; and how many days training on average each category of staff received in each of those years. 
Jane Kennedy: The information requested would be available only at a disproportionate cost.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff in the Tax Credit Office received training in each year since 2003; and for how many days on average in each year. 
Jane Kennedy: The information requested is available only at disproportionate cost.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many manual payments of tax credits were made in each quarter since 2003. 
Jane Kennedy: Information about the number of tax credits payments made manually up to and including January 2007 was provided in an answer to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) on 27 March 2007, Official Report, columns 1513-14W. Quarterly information for 2007 is provided in the following table:
|Quarter ending (2007)||Number of payments (thousand) (around)|
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